It’s the new millennium and still minorities are under and misrepresented in comics. Time for a rant!
You might want to check out “Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology.” The book itself is going to come out in Fall 2008, but right now they have the website and the “secret history” behind the book. It’s worth a look-see in my opinion. Website here:
My bad. The sneak preview is here:
One problem is creativity. Most of the marvel heroes are natural heroes e.g. X-men. You can’t just say they are some other race to satisfy that sort of thing. Another option is creating the token super heroes that just pop out of the wood work. So unless you just want to start over or kill off a couple of major heroes it isn’t going to be easy. How many new (within 20 years) super heroes have you seen that are any good for more than a dozen or so comics. Unless it is someone like Green Lantern that is part of an organization with the same powers and names you can’t capitalize on the name value which is what sells a lot of comics now.
I think you’re right. Most of the new characters suck or aren’t given a chance to really catch an audience. I wonder if it’s the nature of comics or if companies are just afraid to make earth shattering changes to their current line ups. I guess money plays a big role in that these days with the market kind of shifting. But I still think they can do much better.
Out of curiosity, how many of the writers in the comic book industry are minorities? I mean, the primary authors. I admit, I’m not a huge fan of the American comic book. Part of it is racial, part of it is art style (muscles that have muscles that have muscles…?), part is the target audience.
People tend to write about what they know, or what they’re familiar with, or comfortable with writing. Most people aren’t comfortable with writing about an ethnic group they’re not actually part of. What if they step on some toes? What if they’re not “sensitive” enough to cultural nuances? That’s how I look at it, anyway, in all branches of the entertainment world. If I considered anything else, I might just cry myself to sleep in a dark corner. This is in terms of managing to create a new, long reaching series, rather than tacking Tokens onto existing Caucasian themed series.
That’s a good question. I don’t know off the top of my head how many minorities are writing American comics. I would tell any of them who are nervous about writing minority characters not to worry at all. All I’m asking for is non-exploitive depictions of characters. I’m not looking for in depth character epics about the struggle of minorities against an oppressor. No no. I just want more variety and diversity in the lineups.
Also, I’d tell them that you don’t have to murder someone to write about murder. None of you are mutants or have super powers. But if you can write about those subjects all the time, you can write about minorities just fine. There are some experiences that are universal to all humans and if you treat it that way, it should be all good.
To be fair about Shang-chi, the character was basically created in the seventies to capitalize on the kung-fu craze. He’s a ripoff of Bruce Lee in many ways, but that goes to show how popular and charismatic Bruce Lee was. That said, the fact that the character’s father was literally Fu Manchu and has now been retconned to be, I kid you not, a villain named The Yellow Claw, and that and Shang has never, to my knowledge, been expanded into the larger Marvel universe does reek of sloppy exploitative writing.
The ultimate Shang-chi has gotten a slightly better treatment by being teamed up with Iron Fist, Daredevil, Dr. Strange, and Spider-Man in the Ultimate Spider-Man Marvel Knights storyline. He kicked reasonable amounts of ass.
Quality is always the catch with minority representation in media. I think a lot of it has to do with whether or not the writer is actually interested in the character or not. The way characters like Storm and John Stewart have been written you can tell the writers actually like the characters and tried to make them individuals rather than stereotypes. I also agree with Chirri that writing about unfamilar cultures is tough.
Which bring me to my question: I wonder how much research the writers in comics put in to their creations? Is it all just something they build from the top of their heads or do they learn a bit about things they have little experience with. Grant it cultures can be a tough thing to learn, but putting a little effort in can mean the difference between a token character to be dismissed and someone that can provide new life and direction for a franchise or maybe a new franchise all together.
Here’s two that were not mention, but I feel have earned their dues: Jubilation Lee and Doctor Light (Kimiyo Hoshi). And both were made in 1986 and ’85 respectivly, making them barely older than twenty. Relatively new, and treated as exactly what they are: heros (though Juilee is treated as a kid in the 90’s, but we won’t hold that against the writers, she was still just a kid then).
Yeah, Jubilee was awesome. She was one of my favorite X-Men during Jim Lee’s first run.
One that you mentioned, but not as a minority, is Forge. There’s also Bishop from that era of Xmen.
The New Xmen have 3, one the leader: Surge (Noriko Ashida), Dust (Sooraya Qadir), Prodigy (David Alleyne). They’re all new, but being in a team of new characters gives them an equal chance at gaining a fan base.
As to Storm and Black Panther, they’re not just both black, they’re both African. If you’re from there, that’s strong commonality that transcends race. They’re also both revered as close to divinity by their respective people which means they can understand each other’s lives better than most people.
As to time on their romance – my grandparents went from first date to wedding in four months, my parents in three. (Neither were shotgun weddings) So it does happen, especially when you have the kind of commonality that they do.
I completely understand where you are going with this! As an Indian-British Citizen, theres not much in the way of comics that has ethnic minority characters as a main character with
TV I think Mohinder Suresh in “hereos” is a good example of what you can do regarding heroic attributes. Indian characters werent actually represented much in western comics, but the little touted indian comic industry is buzzing. Virgin comics almost specifically caters to an indian market, and has thus adopted indian characters.
However, comic writers are afraid of taking a “leap of faith” regarding new characters of ethnicities. ie. having to avoid sensitive issues, for example in racism, i.e. the pilot episode of heroes had a terrorist muslim with radiation superpowers. Thats not a great show of faith to the muslim community.
The trouble is with a main character, they have to have many positive attributes that make them likable, not just a ethnic joke, and writers dont seem to be able to wrap their heads around that, and play it safe with familiar treading grounds.